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November 7, 2013
National League West
My colleague Ben Carsley introduced this series to you yesterday, with the moves he’d make for the AL East franchises, so today I give you what I’d do if given the chance to make one move for each NL West club. It’s a thought exercise, and isn’t limited to on-field transactions. It can be signing a player, making a trade (that’s feasible, we hope), or something more over-arching in regards to a club’s organizational tendencies.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Stop Tinkering
Arizona will continue to get mocked thanks to the grit-based culture they’re trying to instill. But the bottom line is that they carry talent at most every position and have enough flexibility (thanks to Martin Prado) to play matchups and bring their young talent along slowly. They want grit but perhaps consistency from one offseason to the next will help just as much.
Colorado Rockies: Sign Ubaldo Jimenez
More than anything though, Colorado needs pitching. This is nothing new for the Rockies of course, but they intentionally started Roy Oswalt for heaven’s sake. On top of their desperate need for a starting pitcher, Colorado would be getting something it’s intimately familiar with, something not often found in free agency. Add to that Jimenez’s impressive turnaround in Cleveland last season, including 100 strikeouts against 27 walks in 84 innings pitched, combined with prior success in Colorado’s thin air, and it could make some sense. Obviously we can’t (confidently) predict the dollar figures that Jimenez will command, so it would have to make fiscal sense, but from an on-field standpoint this is a move that benefits the Rockies.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Hire Manny Acta... as bench coach
The opportunity cost here is not addressing the gaping hole they could feature at 3B, as Juan Uribe is likely the best option on the market as well as an important clubhouse presence. There’s also the matter of the starting rotation, which has seen the likes of David Price or Masahiro Tanaka assigned to it. The third-base issue is a bit more pressing than the rotation, as Kershaw/Greinke/Ryu are just fine from one to three. Even so, third base isn't that pressing, as it appears to be a short-term issue rather than a long-term problem; the Dodgers’ likely top prospect, Corey Seager, is a candidate for the hot corner (at 6-foot-4, he’d be a huge shortstop) and could be ready as soon as mid-2015. Intangibles are difficult to quantify, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. This team seems to like Don Mattingly, but he needs some help to become a complete manager, and Acta is the guy to get him there.
San Diego Padres: Sign Josh Johnson
The case can then be made that adding one more high risk arm to the mix isn’t the answer, but if Johnson can rehabilitate his value (and what better place to do that than PETCO park), then the Padres can ship him off to a contender at the deadline and replace his production with one of their prospects. There’s not a lot of flash to this move, but it’s something that could appeal to both team and player. If it goes south, the Padres were unlikely to contend this season anyway.
San Francisco Giants: Sign Jacoby Ellsbury
That leaves us with the type of fit, as well as opportunity cost to quibble with. Aside from outfield (well, left field but in this case Pagan could slide to left), the major area of concern for the Giants is the pitching staff. Beyond Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum there is… well… room for opportunity! So the downside to signing an Ellsbury is that you’re left to bottom feed with the back end of the pitching staff, but given the cost of the available options at starter, there might actually be more value in bottom feeding than overpaying a Ricky Nolasco-type to be your third or fourth starter. The other opportunity cost factor in paying Ellsbury is the loss of a first-round pick, which certainly hurts. The issue is, when looking for a move of impact for a team that can contend now (and this team certainly can), many of the available options come with such a tag. Matt Garza doesn’t, but the cost for him, combined with the role he’d play on the team doesn’t seem worthwhile to me. There’s definitely more cost to signing an Ellsbury, but there’s a lot more impact as well.
Which brings us to fit. I originally sketched out Curtis Granderson to the Giants because I liked what he did for their lineup, before realizing he too would cost a pick and that to give up a pick, you’d need more impact. But I was also swayed away from Granderson because he’s not the Giants style… but Ellsbury is. He’s a high contact type who can impact the game at the plate, on the bases and most importantly, in the field. Ellsbury is a plus centerfielder, especially when it comes to range, which is a huge factor in the Giants spacious outfield. The added bonus is it would shift Angel Pagan, who struggled in centerfield if you trust defensive metrics, into left field, giving the Giants one of the better outfield defenses in the league. This isn’t at all what I think will happen in San Francisco but if given the opportunity to influence one decision for the franchise, it’s the move I’d make.